If You Get Stung by a Human Jellyfish ...

by Mary

Here’s the truth …

“Don't hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting” (Leviticus 19:17 CEV).

I read this book recently called The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.  In it, we learn of the angst of a middle schooler named Suzy that was brought on by a girl who decided to leave Suzy behind for a new group of friends.  Suzy, a well-read girl who is fixated on jellyfish, spends much of the book explaining to us why jellyfish can be so interesting while also connecting us to the idea that people and jellyfish have stinging in common:  “Jellyfish are stinging machines, and their stings are as violent as anything on Earth.  But they don’t have to think about that, about who they sting and why.  Jellyfish don’t get bogged down by drama, love, friendship, or sorrow.  They don’t get stuck in any of the stuff that gets people in trouble” (Benjamin, 2015, p. 170).

She’s right!  People sting others all the time.  And either the person doing the stinging gets convicted of it so that she eventually feels bogged down and awful, or the person being stung can’t let it go and feels bogged down and awful.  Regardless, a drama of awful-ness ensues.

What happens when the stings come from a brother or sister in Christ?  J. I. Packer, author of A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, said, “Few if any churches lack friends, of a sort, who feel it is their special ministry to impart negative assurances . . . and who never doubt that their doomsaying is the most helpful contribution they can make.  The factual information they may bring may, of course, be useful; but the oracular gloom they spread is unbelief masquerading as wisdom and needs to be nipped in the bud” (2001, p. 105).  He is describing the Jews who lived outside of the wall that Nehemiah was trying to build.  They came multiple times to warn the builders that doom and gloom awaited them soon, but the builders simply needed encouragement. 

I had a friend who came to my home once in an effort to talk about some ministry issues only to say some very hurtful things prior to leaving that had nothing to do with ministry and everything to do with me personally.  She addressed patterns she was seeing and made a comment that wasn’t wholly thoughtful or researched, so it seemed slanderous to me that she would even consider that to be truth about who I am.  I felt at the time that Satan had slithered into my home, bitten me hard, and then slithered back out, the bite causing a wound that festered for weeks. 

I needed to choose wisely how I dealt with this.  Tempting as it would have been to spread the injustice of my friend’s words around to other people, I knew from seeking God during those difficult days that He would want me, instead, to confront the person who uttered the words in the first place: “Don't hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting” (Leviticus 19:17 CEV).  My husband agreed.  So I set out to confront. 

It was the most nerve-wracking thing I had done in a while!  I am usually someone who avoids confrontation.  I bury the hurt under a pile of other hurt that has been growing and growing.  One snide comment to me here.  One raised eyebrow directed at me there.  The problem with burying things is that it only works if you don’t plan to dig up things that lay bare under the pile ever again.  In the case of this particular friend, her pile had been growing for some time before I finally decided to call her on it.  I mustered up the courage and typed out what I would say so that I would leave nothing to chance.  There is nothing worse than confronting someone about what she said and then botching it because bitterness or fear crept inside and stole the words you really meant to say, right?

So I went to her house and brought my computer with me.  I didn’t print out what I had planned to say because I didn’t want her to be tempted to ask to keep what I wrote.  I positioned myself across from her so that she couldn’t even peek over my shoulder at my screen.  And I explained as calmly as I could that I was confronting her about what she said to me and that I thought her comments had surpassed the point of being offered with the intention of helpfulness.  They were simply downright mean, unfounded, and hurtful.  Sometimes we need to endure the stings.  Sometimes we need to put a stop to them.

She was completely and utterly apologetic.  She asked questions and sought to get to the heart of my wound.  We spoke for a great while about the entire experience, and I left feeling quite validated and very thankful that we were able to hug it out.  If you are dealing with a true Christian, one who desires to walk with God and live out His calling on her life, she will humbly accept responsibility for her actions. If you are not dealing with such a person, then leave her in the hands of the Father.  Psalm 37 promises that He will see to it that justice is done: “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act.  Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes….  For the LORD loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly” (Psalm 37:7, 28 NLT). He is able to work on the heart of a person.  Your job is to forgive her, even if she never asks to be forgiven.

Although at times I wish I could be unfeeling like the jellyfish and not think about the stings I deliver or receive in life, I’m glad that God made humans differently.  The only way to learn how to behave better towards others and sting them less is to get stung a few times ourselves.  Faith grows when you overcome a good stinging with God’s help and not with the help of social media where you can slander from the rooftops.  Operate on the idea that you should point others to Him, not away from Him.  Let’s vow not to be someone who stings like a jellyfish.  We really can be more introspective than that.

… and that’s the truth as I know it!